Eating is an agricultural act - Wendell Berry

Friday, October 12, 2007

randy pausch - a posh life

i briefly read on dilip's blog here about a randy pausch. did not pay much attention.
i read the same stuff on dilip's article in tehelka magazine.

so i thought, dilip recommends, so might as well check. (the power of the printed word)

in brief here is the story. randy is a great student, becomes a CS professor at carnegie mellon, is a wonderful teacher and human being AND has terminal cancer BUT none of the above matter.

in this blitzkrieg speech/talk/presentation, randy rocks the world with his wisdom. speech of the decade.
the video and the report is available on wsj site.
the transcript of the entire speech is what i read.
am reproducing some stuff here as it is a long speech (1.75 hours or 26 pages).
weekend is coming and certainly certainly worth it.

1. on obstacles
……I dashed off my letters of applications to Walt Disney Imagineering, and they sent me some of the damned nicest go-to-hell letters I have ever gotten. So that was a bit of a setback. But remember, the brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.

2. on coaching
…I had a coach, Jim Graham,…he showed up for practice the first day, and you know, there’s big hulking guy, we were all scared to death of him. And he hadn’t brought any footballs. How are we going to have practice without any footballs? And one of the other kids said, excuse me coach, but there’s no football. And Coach Graham said, right, how many men are on a football field at a time? Eleven on a team, twenty-two. Coach Graham said, all right, and how many people are touching the football at any given time? One of them. And he said, right, so we’re going to work on what those other twenty-one guys are doing. And that’s a really good story because it’s all about fundamentals. Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. You’ve got to get the fundamentals down because otherwise the fancy stuff isn’t going to work.

3. on coaching (again)
…the other Jim Graham story I have is there was one practice where he just rode me all practice. You’re doing this wrong, you’re doing this wrong, go back and do it again, you owe me, you’re doing push-ups after practice. And when it was all over, one of the other assistant coaches came over and said, yeah, Coach Graham rode you pretty hard, didn’t he? I said, yeah. He said, that’s a good thing. He said, when you’re screwing up and nobody’s saying anything to you anymore, that means they gave up. And that’s a lesson that stuck with me my whole life. Is that when you see yourself doing something badly and nobody’s bothering to tell you anymore, that’s a very bad place to be. Your critics are your ones telling you they still love you and care.

4. setting the bar
The first assignment, I gave it to them, they came back in two weeks and they just blew me away. I mean the work was so beyond, literally, my imagination, … I had no idea what they could or couldn’t do with it as undergraduates, and their tools were weaker, and they came back on the first assignment, and they did something that was so spectacular that … I had no idea what to do next. So I called up my mentor, and I called up Andy Van Dam. And I said, Andy, I just gave a two-week assignment, and they came back and did stuff that if I had given them a whole semester I would have given them all As. Sensei, what do I do?
And Andy thought for a minute and he said, you go back into class tomorrow and you look them in the eye and you say, “Guys, that was pretty good, but I know you can do better.”

5. indirect learning - the head fake (i love this part)
experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted. And I think that’s absolutely lovely. And the other thing about football is we send our kids out to play football or soccer or swimming or whatever it is, and it’s the first example of what I’m going to call a head fake, or indirect learning. We actually don’t want our kids to learn football. I mean, yeah, it’s really nice that I have a wonderful three-point stance and that I know how to do a chop block and all this kind of stuff. But we send our kids out to learn much more important things. Teamwork, sportsmanship, perseverance, etcetera, etcetera. And these kinds of head fake learning are absolutely important.
And you should keep your eye out for them because they’re everywhere.
The best way to teach somebody something is to have them think they’re learning something else.

6. on parenting
… but when I was in high school I decided to paint my bedroom. I always wanted a submarine and an elevator. And the great thing about this is they let me do it. And they didn’t get upset about it. And it’s still there. If you go to my parent’s house it’s still there. And anybody who is out there who is a parent, if your kids want to paint their bedroom, as a favor to me let them do it. It’ll be OK. Don’t worry about resale value on the house.

7. on communication
And I was quite an arrogant young man. And I come bounding in and you know, I’m just going to save the world. And afterwards, Andy put his arm around my shoulders and we went for a little walk and he said, Randy, it’s such a shame that people perceive you as so arrogant. Because it’s going to limit what you’re going to be able to accomplish in life. What a hell of a way to word “you’re being a jerk.” Right? He doesn’t say you’re a jerk. He says people are perceiving you this way and he says the downside is it’s going to limit what you’re going to be able to accomplish.

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